Setting:  1957
Written:  1983
Huntington Production:  2003

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Fences Characters
Fences Synopsis 

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Curriculum Guide


  • TROY MAXON: The protagonist of Fences, Troy is a working class African-American man who lives with his wife Rose and their son Corey and. He works for the Sanitation Department as a trash collector. He is devoted to providing for his family and guaranteeing that his sons have better lives than he did. Having been a great player baseball play in the Negro leagues, Troy was too old to join the Major leagues when they were finally integrated. It’s this experience, and several others from his past that color his outlook on life and his relationship with his sons.
  • ROSE: Rose is Troy’s second wife who he married upon his release from prison. She is the mother of his youngest son, Corey. She is a 43-year-old housewife who makes time for her Church regularly. The compassionate matriarch of the play, Rose is a fair judge of character who hopes for a better future for herself, her husband, and her son. She has high hopes for Corey, and keeps on looking forward instead of romantically clinging to the past like her husband. She personifies the qualities of love, patience, and forgiveness—and has plenty of opportunities to exhibit all three.
  • BONO: Having served time together in prison, Troy and Bono became very close and remain best friends well out of their time spent in jail. Having seen Troy through thick and thin, Bono often serves as the voice of reason and perspective for Troy—especially when it comes to Rose Maxon. Despite having been friends with him for over thirty years, Bono’s concern for Troy’s marriage trumps his loyalty to the friendship. Bono himself is a devoted husband to his wife Lucille.
  • GABRIEL: Gabriel is Troy’s brother who suffered a head injury during World War II. Part of the effect is his nonsensical ramblings that actually touch on quite a bit of truth. He is sometimes convinced that he is the Angel Gabriel waiting for St. Peter to open the gates of Heaven. He is the wise fool, often knowing more about those people surrounding him than they know about themselves. Gabriel receives money from the government because of his injury, some of which Troy used to pay for the house where the Play takes place. 

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Act I:  The play begins on a Friday, Troy and Bono’s payday.  Troy and Bono go to Troy’s house for their weekly ritual of drinking and talking.  Troy has asked Mr. Rand, their boss, why the black employees aren’t allowed to drive the garbage trucks, only to life the garbage.  Bono thinks Troy is cheating on his wife, Rose.  Troy and Rose’s son, Cory, has been recruited by a college football team.  Troy played baseball in the Negro Leagues but never got a chance to pay in the Major Leagues because he got too old to play just as the Majors began accepting black players.  Troy tells a story about his struggle with death in July of 1943.  Lyons shows up at the house to say hello, but Troy says he’s only there because he knows it’s Troy’s payday.  Lyons then asks Troy for money, which Rose persuades Troy to give him.  Rose reminds Troy about the fence she’s asked him to finish building.

Cory and Troy work on the fence.  Cory breaks the news to Troy that he has given away his job at the local grocery store, A&P, during the football season.  Cory begs Troy to let him play because a coach from North Carolina is coming all the way to Pittsburgh to see Cory play.  Troy refuses and orders Cory to get his job back, telling him that the white man won’t let him succeed in sports.

Act I, Scene 4 takes place on a Friday afternoon and mirrors scene 1.  Troy has won his case and has been assigned as the first colored garbage truck driver in the city.  Bono and Troy remember their fathers and their childhood experiences of leaving home in the south and moving north.  Cory comes home enraged after finding out that Troy told the football coach that Cory is not allowed to play on the team.  Troy warns Cory that his insubordination is “strike one” against him.

Act II:  Troy bails his brother, Gabriel, out of jail.  Bono and Troy work on the fence.  Bono explains to Troy and Cory that Rose wants the fence because she loves her family and wants to keep her loved ones close.  Troy admits to Bono that he is having an affair with a woman named Alberta.  Bono bets Troy that if he finishes building the fence for Rose, Bono will buy his wife, Lucille, the refrigerator he has been promising her for a long time.  Troy tells Rose about a hearing in three weeks to determine whether or not Gabriel should be recommitted to an asylum.  Troy confesses to Rose that he has been having an affair.  Rose accuses Troy of taking and not giving.  Troy vehemently disagrees and grabs Rose’s arm angrily.  Cory enters the scene and grabs Troy from behind to protect his mother.  They fight and Troy wins.  Troy calls “strike two” on Cory.

Six months later, Troy says he is going over to the hospital to see Alberta, who went into labor early.  Rose tells Troy that Gabriel has been taken away to the asylum because Troy signed him away.  Troy says he never signed any such papers.  It may be that he was unable to read them.  Rose receives a call and tells Troy before he’s able to leave that Alberta had a baby girl but died during childbirth.  Alone, Troy challenges death to come and get him.  Troy brings home his baby, Raynell, and begs Rose to help him raise her.  Rose agrees to take in Raynell as her own child, but refuses to be dutiful as Troy’s wife.

On Troy’s payday, Bono shows up unexpectedly after the two have not seen each other for a while.  Troy and Bono acknowledge how each man made good on his bet about the fence and the refrigerator, but there is a new estrangement between them.  Cory comes home and is rude to Troy, citing Troy’s treatment of Rose as justification.  Troy insists that Cory leave the house and provide for himself.  Cory points out that the house and property that Troy is throwing him out of should actually be owned by Gabriel, whose government checks covered most of the mortgage payments.  Troy physically attacks Cory and kicks him out of the house for good.  Cory leaves.  Troy swings the baseball bat in the air, once again challenging death.

Eight years later, Raynell plays in her newly planted garden.  Troy has died from a heart attack.  Cory returns home from the Marines after years away.  Raynell does not remember Cory.  Cory tells Rose he will not attend the funeral because he needs to say no to his father for once in his life.  Rose teaches Cory that not attending Troy’s funeral does not make Cory a man.  Raynell and Cory bond by singing one of Troy’s father’s blues songs.  Rose’s words and singing with Raynell seems to persuade Cory to attend the funeral after all.  Gabriel turns up, released (or perhaps escaped) from the mental hospital and blows his trumpet so that St. Peter will open the gates and let Troy in, but no sound comes out.  He tries again but the trumpet will not play.  Disappointed, hurt, and desperate, Gabriel begins to dance.  He lets out a cry and the Heavens open wide.  He says, “That’s the way that go,” and the play ends.

(Adapted from

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